â€˘ A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
CARACAS, VENEZUELA â€“ Mark Twain described golf as â€śa good walk spoiled.â€ť But for Venezuelaâ€™s President Hugo ChĂˇvez, the sport represents everything wrong with modern Venezuelan society. â€śGolf is a bourgeois sport,â€ť he railed on television. â€śThirty hectares just for playing golf!â€ť
Golf arrived in Venezuela at about the same time as oil was first exploited here. Many of the first courses were established near the countryâ€™s key oil-producing regions. Up until 10 years ago, Venezuela had 30 courses, but seven have since been closed down â€“ mostly those belonging to the national oil company, PDVSA. The government wants to close down two more.
In 2006, Juan Barreto, then mayor of Caracas and a Chavez ally, moved to shutter the Caracas Country Club, Venezuelaâ€™s oldest course, to build housing for the poor. But after infighting and a legal battle, he backed down.
Julio Torres, president of the Venezuelan Golf Federation, denied that golf is an elitist sport. â€śIn all parts of the world it began as a sport of kings. Here about 10 years ago golf began to open up mainly in the oil fields. Those who worked there played golf â€“ managers, supervisors, and workers.â€ť